To achieve broad-based economic development, we have been focusing on agriculture, infrastructure, energy, telecommunication sectors: Ishaq Dar

Islamabad, April 28, 2015 (PPI-OT): Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar while addressing the 2-day International conference on Innovative Agricultural Financing here on Tuesday said that to achieve broad-based economic development, we have been focusing on agriculture, infrastructure, energy, and telecommunication sectors. It is our belief that advancements in these sectors can propel the country to achieve an economic growth rate of around 7% by 2017-18.

The Minister said agriculture in Pakistan had tremendous potential and Pakistan was one of the biggest producers of grains, dairy and fruit in the world. “This provides us a unique opportunity to establish our capacity in producing, storing, branding, and exporting value-added products of food, juice, confectionary, garments, footwear and a wide range of other agro-based product categories”, the Minister remarked.

Dar said that measures were being taken by the government to increase agriculture production and infrastructure, ensure food security, and promote pro-poor agricultural growth. He said Government was also taking steps to improve production yields, introduce modern farm-mechanization, increase better market access, and integrate farming with diverse markets through value chains to ensure that the benefits were passed down to farmers.

He said the Government was fully committed in providing an enabling environment to the financial sector for financing the agriculture sector through innovative and scalable products. The Minister said he fully supported the efforts of SBP to work in collaboration with SECP, Mercantile Exchange, and other stakeholders for formulating a strategy to develop a framework for the development of warehouse receipt financing system in Pakistan.

“In this regard, I launched the Financial Innovation Challenge Fund (FICF) round on innovative agricultural finance at Islamabad about a year back. It is indeed heartening to witness that the challenge has successfully led to launch of various initiatives including pilot on Warehouse Receipt Financing (WHR), value chain financing, Islamic agri-finance models, and automation of credit appraisal processes”, the Minister said.

The Minister appreciated the State Bank, and commercial and microfinance banks for their successful progress towards meeting annual agriculture target for the FY 2014-15. This growth was now fuelling the expectation that the existing low share of 7% of agri-lending in total bank lending would increase considerably in future. “It is my expectation that ‘access to banks’ credit’ by small farmers will be given critical importance in the agri-financing strategy”, Dar remarked.

The Minister welcoming holding of the conference said we would all benefit from the insight and expertise of the international experts and local leaders to adopt the innovative agriculture financing practices in Pakistan. He said he looked forward to receiving the recommendations of the Conference, particularly those which required inclusion in the Finance Bill for FY 2016 in order to have Parliament’s endorsement.

Governor, State Bank of Pakistan Mr. Ashraf Mahmaood Wathra in his address said that the State Bank of Pakistan had been striving to continuously adapt itself to the changing socio-economic dynamics. With its mandate SBP had worked persistently to foster an environment which was conducive for the development of agri-finance. As a result of the concentrated efforts of the Government of Pakistan and other stake holders including the banking industry, agricultural credit had witnessed an impressive growth over the recent years.

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